3.01.2010

Bridge Wind and Dead Possums, or Foolishness Across America, Day Two

A striking difference a second day can make in the riding. I left Delaware on 301 South and crossed the Preston Memorial bridge onto Hanson Highway. Riding bridges on a motorbike is always a mix of terror and adrenaline. It is perhaps the closest thing to flying: the roadside drops away around you and there is a sudden onrush of powerful wind. It lifts you above the water, where you join the company of the gulls and osprey. The smell of the air and sloshing of the river below are overwhelming and the mind seems to empty out into the breeze. Flight and freedom.

  It is, of course, at this moment that you are surprised by a pile of metal sheets in the roadway just ahead. Bridges, while exhilirating, seem ridden with biker hazards. I swerved to avoid the long metal plates, wedging myself in between them and the neighboring semi. My tires rebounded off the sawtoothed joints in the road and I did my best to stay with the wind, dancing side to side on the footpegs as it gusted.

   I hit DC and decided to stay on 50 and ride through town. Motorcycling mostly liberates one from parking worries, and I pulled up on the sidewalk just in front of the Washington Monument. I checked the bike, the bags, and had a few bites of a two-year old powerbar on the Mall. I felt very far away already, and more sore than I'd planned on. By the time I got to Weasel's apartment, I was flushed with wind and brain-fried. It was paradise to strip away all my cold weather gear and eat a towering plate of hot food. I put down a filet of tilapia, then a mound of green beans, butternut squash and saffron rice. Seconds was sesame fried chicken, paneer palak, masal chole and more saffron rice. On the way out I grabbed a glazed donut, a new york cheese danish, and a cup of earl grey. Heaven, pure and simple.

   We smoked a pipe of good tobacco and talked about everything in the world. In the background, radio reports on the Chilean earthquake competed with the hustle of the Olympic hockey game on TV. I slept hard.

   After bagels and coffee, I was off. I took a route suggested by Weasel and was thankful for it. The road was empty and beautifully winding. I've criss-crossed the country three times by auto, but the days of driving mostly seemed the same, the reward was always the end of the day. Exploration always had to wait until the engine was off.

   Now, I watched Red-tailed Hawks hanging on the wind above me. I spotted high kettles of Black Vultures circling over factory yards where men in forklifts raced in their own small spirals. As on the bridge, these moments, while the lifeblood of motorbiking, threaten the attention a bit. I turned back to roadway to find a red-and-brownwhite hunk of furry dead possum. I was too close and too fast to  swerve, so I stood on the pegs and hit the throttle just before impact to lift the front wheel. The thud was heavy, but in a moment it was gone, the bike never veering once from the impact. I hollered a cheers, said a prayer for Old Dead Possum Pete, and congratulated my bike on it's first obstacle overcome. On and on and on to Raleigh.

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